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In U.S. v Vargas the defendant was charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and possession of cocaine after Alabama law enforcement officers discovered cocaine and methamphetamine in Vargas’ vehicle. Vargas filed a motion to suppress on the grounds that Vargas’ traffic stop that led to the discovery of the drugs violated Fourth amendment.

Here, Alabama law enforcement officer pulled over the defendant for following too close and failing to maintain its lane. The driver immediately admitted that he did not have a driver’s license. The officer asked him to come back to the officer’s car where the officer asked him routine questions about where he was going. After about three minutes the officer informed him that he was issuing him a warning for following too close. He continued to ask defendant some questions to complete the warning. He then approached the passenger to determine whether he could operate the vehicle. When the passenger said he did not have a license, the officer spent another 12 minutes working with the two in an attempt to determine how to safely and legally get the car moved. About 18 minutes into the traffic stop and 15 minutes after the enforcement officer informed he was issuing a warning, the officer asked the defendant for consent to search the vehicle and the defendant consented. The search turned up the drugs hidden in the vehicle.

The defendant contended on appeal that the length of the traffic stop violated the fourth amendment. The court cited the Supreme court’s opinion in Rodriguez v United States which states as a general matter a traffic stop exceeding the time needed to handle the matter for which the stop was made is a violation of the Constitution’s shield against unreasonable seizures.

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In U.S. v. Votrobek the appellants were convicted by a jury of conspiracy to distribute drugs, conspiracy to launder money and substantive charges of money laundering and maintaining a place for unlawful drug distribution.   The charges arose from their operation of a pill mill, a term used to describe a medical clinic that prescribes narcotics for illegitimate purposes. The appellants first learned how to run a pill mill clinic from a Zachary Rose who operated three clinics in Jacksonville Florida. Once law enforcement began investigating Rose’s clinics, the appellants left and established their own clinic, AMG, in the fashion of a typical pill mill.

Later, Votrobek was indicted for conspiracy to distribute Oxycodone and Alprazolam in Rose’s Florida clinics but a jury acquitted him.

Less than two months after his acquittal in Rose’s Florida pill mill, a Federal Grand jury in Georgia indicted Votrobek and others regarding their involvement in AMG, charging them with conspiracy to distribute Oxycodone, Xanax, and other drugs for other than a legitimate medical purpose. He was convicted on all counts. In his appeal, he claims the district court committed plain error by not dismissing the Georgia conspiracy charges on Double Jeopardy grounds. He argued the conspiracy counts were barred by Double Jeopardy and the trial court committed plain error by not dismissing the substantive convictions based on prejudicial spillover.

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In U.S. v Scheels the Defendant pled guilty to one count of production of child pornography and one count of receipt of child pornography and received a 600-month sentence of imprisonment. In calculating his sentencing guideline range, the district court imposed a four-level enhancement under 2G2.1(b)(4) of the U. S. Sentencing Guidelines. This guidelines provision requires the imposition of a four-level enhancement where a defendant’s “offense involved material that portrays sadistic or masochistic conduct or other depictions of violence.” The defendant conceded that the pornography he produced does depict sadistic or masochistic conduct and admitted that it contained among other things images involving whipping and bondage. But the defendant argued that the enhancement should not apply to him because the sadistic or masochistic conduct in the pornography was directed at him not the child victim.

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After a two-week trial, defendant in U.S. v Stein was convicted of mail, wire, and securities fraud based on evident that he fabricated press releases and purchase money orders to inflate the stock price of his client, Signalife, Inc, a publicly traded manufacturer of medical devices. The district court sentenced Stein to 205 months in prison, ordered $5 million in forfeiture, and $13 million in restitution. In his appeal Stein argued that the government failed to disclose Brady v. Maryland material to the defense before trial and knowingly relied on false testimony to make its case. As for the sentence, Stein argues that the district court erred in calculating actual loss for the purpose of the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act of 1996 (MVRA) and § 2B1.1 of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines. He argued that in estimating actual loss the district court erroneously presumed that all purchasers of Signalife stock during the period the fraud was ongoing relied on false information advanced by Stein.   He also argued that the district court failed to take into account other market forces that likely contributed to the investors losses.

After the Department of Justin conducted a criminal investigation of Stein and his work with Signalife, he was charged with money laundering and wire and securities fraud. Prior to his trial Stein moved to produce documents in the Security and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) files. The government’s response was that is lacked control over the SEC and it did not conduct a joint investigation with the SEC. Prior to trial Stein learned that in the course of its investigation the DOJ had accessed a very small subset of documents in the SEC’s date base which the DOJ then provided to him. As a result he filed a motion to dismiss on the basis of this Brady violation. Following his conviction at trial, he obtained additional documents from the SEC that he believed were exculpatory and he filed motion for a new trial based on the Brady violation.

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In this case Garcia Martinez pleaded guilty to reentry after deportation in violation of 8 U.S.C. Sec. 1326(a) and his guidelines sentence was enhanced 16 levels by the district court who found his Florida conviction for second degree burglary of a dwelling, for which he was deported, was a crime of violence. He appealed the district court’s conclusion arguing that the facts of the Florida conviction for burglary of a dwelling as set forth in the presentence report do not qualify for a 16- level increase in his guideline range.

The court of appeals reversed after determining that the Florida statute does not fall under the enumerated offense clause definition for crime of violence under the sentencing guidelines.

The court arrived at this decision by first determining that the generic definition of the enumerated offense of burglary requires the unlawful entry into a building or structure with intent to commit a crime. However, the sentencing guidelines specifies that the offense must be a burglary of a dwelling. This required the court to determine the generic definition of a dwelling. It concluded a generic dwelling is a building or portion thereof, a tent, a mobile home, a vehicle, or other enclosed space which is used or intended for use a s a human habitation.

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The issues in Dukes v Deaton were whether a police officer who threw a diversionary device known as a “flashbang” into a dark room occupied by two sleeping individuals without first visually inspecting the room is entitled to qualified immunity against a section 1983 lawsuit claiming excessive force and whether the officer was entitled to qualified immunity against a complaint of assault and battery. Narcotics officers of the Clayton County Sheriff applied for a search warrant of Jason Ward’s apartment based on confidential informant’s information that he sold narcotics out of his apartment. The search warrant application noted that Ward was known to carry a handgun. The application sought a “no-knock” provision because “drug dealers commonly use weapons, dogs, and barricades to hinder law enforcement in the execution of their duties. Prior to execution of the warrant the SWAT team held an operational meeting to discuss the plan of entry. The Defendant and other SWAT members were given flashbang devices to uses. These are classified as explosives that can generate heat in excess of 2,000 degrees centigrade and over 150 decibels of noise for less than one-half second. Because they have the potential to cause serious bodily injury, the officers received official instruction to visually inspect an area first before deploying a flashbang.

The search warrant execution plan did not call for Deaton to deploy his flashbang, however the plan gave all SWAT team member the authority to use more flashbangs if needed. As the SWAT team executed the search warrant at 5:30 a.m., Deaton deployed his flashbang threw the bedroom window where Dukes was sleeping. The explosion caused Dukes to suffer severe burns and she spent three days in the hospital.

Dukes filed a complaint against Deaton and the Commander Branham alleging a violation of Duke’s right to be free from excessive force under the Fourth Amendment and a state law claim for assault and battery against Deaton.

The district court granted motions to dismiss finding the officers were entitle to qualified immunity against the excessive force and against the assault and battery claim and filed this appeal.

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The appellants in U.S. v. Rushin were correctional officers at the Macon state Prison in Georgia who were charged and convicted of conspiracy to obstruct and obstruction of justice stemming from alleged abuses of prisoners and the subsequent cover ups while they were working as members of the Correctional Emergency Response Team, (CERT) which is a specially trained group responsible for responding to and controlling disturbances as the Macon State Prison. Of the three issues raised only one was addressed in depth by this opinion and that was whether the district court improperly limited the cross examination of cooperating witness in violation of the defendant’s Sixth Amendment rights. The case arose from the beatings of several inmates at the Macon State Prison by CERT members against certain inmates in retaliation for assaulting officers. The CERT members would then take the inmate to the medical unit and lie about how the inmates’ injuries were sustained.

Multiple members of the CERT entered plea agreements and cooperated with the government by testifying at trial. The defense counsel wanted to cross-examine the cooperating witnesses about their potential sentences had they not cooperated. The government requested a limitation on the defendants cross examining witnesses about to the specific numerical sentence that could have been imposed had they not cooperated as this would speak to the potential sentences that could be received by the defendants and encourage jury nullification.

The district court granted this motion explaining that the defendants were permitted to inquire into whether the cooperating witnesses about a plea agreement, that they face a more severe penalty prior to cooperating, and that the witness received or expected to receive benefits in exchange for their testimony (charges dropped or consideration of a sentence reductions). However, the defendants’ attorneys were not permitted to inquire as to the statutory sentencing range for charges against cooperating witnesses.

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Ammar was convicted and sentenced to life following trial for robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery and using or carrying a firearm in relation to a crime of violence. In United States v. Ammar he challenged his conviction contending that the district court should have dismissed his indictment pursuant to the Speedy Trial Act. The Sixth Amendment of the Constitution provides that in all criminal prosecutions the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy trial. To enforce this provision Congress passed the Speedy Trial Act which provides that the trial must begin within 70 days of either the filing of the indictment or the date the defendant first appears before a judicial officer to answer the charges, whichever occurs later. If a defendant is not tried within that window of time then the district court must grant the defendant’s motion to dismiss the indictment.

A district court may grant a continuance of the trial date when the ends of justice support the continuance and the district court is required to say its reasons for finding that the ends of justice served by the granting of a continuance outweigh the best interest of the public and the defendant in a speedy trial. Furthermore a defendant’s agreement to waive the protections of the Act cannot by itself justify an ends of justice continuance because the public interest in a speedy trial is also protected by the Act.

Ammar was detained following his arrest without a bond.   Soon after the district court held a scheduling conference with the defendants and scheduled trial to begin about one year later. Ammar appealed the magistrate’s detention order contending that the district court set an extended trial date over his objection and that the extended detention pending a trial more than a year from the date of the indictment violated his due process and speedy trial rights. Prior to trial Amar filed his motion to dismiss on speedy trial grounds.

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Phyllis May was involuntarily taken to a hospital police officer Tommy Allen of the City of Nahunta, Georgia Police Department for a mental health evaluation. She subsequently sued pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983 for an unlawful seizure in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. May took this appeal from the district court’s order granting Officer Allen’s motion for summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity. The issue in May v. City of Nahunta, Georgia is whether an otherwise authorized mental-health seizure was converted into an unconstitutional one by virtue of the seizing law enforcement officer’s conduct.
May was the sole care taker for her Alzheimer-stricken mother fell into a deep sleep after a taxing few days of caring for her mother. When May’s brother was unable to rouses May from her sleep he called 911 and four emergency medical technicians arrived in response. Officer Allen also arrived at the residence in response to the 911 call requesting his assistance and was told information by the EMT and his observations, he decided to seize May in her bedroom and transport her to the hospital for a psychological evaluation.
In conducting the mental health seizure Officer Allen asked the EMTs to leave the room and locked the door behind and informed May that she was going to the hospitals and instructed her to change from her nightgown to more suitable clothes. Despite her urging he refused to leave while he changed, handed her clothing, touched her shoulder roughly in an effort to pull off her nightgown, instructed her to remove her shorts and first put on her undergarments, and when she refused he insisted that she will while patting his gun. Officer Allen remained in the locked room alone with May for 15-20 minutes while ignoring May’s sister’s request from the other side that he open the door.
After she was taken to the hospital where she spent two hours she was released when it was determined there was nothing wrong with her.

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In Bailey v. Wheeler, the court reviewed the district court’s decision denying the defendant, Wheeler, qualified immunity protection in a section 1983 action by Bailey. Here is how the facts unfold. Bailey, an officer for the City of Douglasville, Georgia, filed written complaint with his chief reporting that police officers from his department and from the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office were racially profiling minority citizens and committing other constitutional violations.   Bailey complained that law-enforcement officers made racially offensive comments and jokes about minorities. Eventually repercussions of Baileys’ complaints followed and soon after he was terminated from his position with the police department. He appealed his termination to the City of Douglasville complaining that he was fired for speaking out against profiling and other unconstitutional conduct by the police department and the Sheriff’ Office deputies. The night the city held a hearing he was followed by two deputies that stared him down. The next day Major Tommy Wheeler of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office issued a county-wide alert to all law-enforcement officers warning that Baily was a “loose cannon” who presented a danger to any law enforcement officer in Douglas County and directing officer to act accordingly. He issued a BOLO with his picture. For the second day in a row law enforcement vehicles from both the Sheriff’s Office and the Police Department followed Bailey as he drove his personal car. About three weeks later Bailey was permitted to return to work at the Douglasville Police Department.

Bailey filed a lawsuit claiming a violation of 42 U.S.C. §1983 for retaliation for exercising his First Amendment rights and a claim that Wheeler had defamed Bailey under Georgia law. The district court denied Wheeler’s claim he was entitled to qualified immunity and filed this appeal.

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